Critics say Shira Haas may be surprise Emmy winner

"Unorthodox" was an unexpected hit with audiences around the world, some of whom were familiar with Haas from her previous role as another sometimes rebellious ultra-Orthodox woman in "Shtisel".

Emmy-nominated Shira Haas stars in Netflix's "Unorthodox" (photo credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX)
Emmy-nominated Shira Haas stars in Netflix's "Unorthodox"
(photo credit: COURTESY OF NETFLIX)
Many Israelis will be setting their alarms to 3 a.m. on Monday morning to cheer on young Israeli star Shira Haas, who is nominated for an Emmy for Best Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie for her performance in the Netflix series Unorthodox as a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) woman who leaves her family in Brooklyn for Berlin.
While Haas is not the favorite, many entertainment writers are saying she should win.
The awards will take place in Los Angeles on Sunday evening. Jimmy Kimmel will host them live at the Staples Center, which will be kept mostly empty due to regulations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Other presenters will appear in different locations. The winners who choose to participate will give their acceptance speeches live from their homes.
This would work well for Haas, if she wins, because she charmed viewers around the world when she broadcast her exuberantly joyful response to her nomination live from her apartment in Tel Aviv, alongside her Unorthodox co-star, Amit Rahav.
The New York Times interviewed the up-and-coming star following her nomination. She has also been profiled in about a dozen international publications and has posed for a number of glamorous fashion spreads. When asked by the Times whether she had expected to be nominated, she said: “The answer is definitely no, but I feel so very, very grateful. And I always believed in the show, but I’m surprised, to be honest.”
Unorthodox was an unexpected hit with audiences around the world, some of whom were familiar with Haas from her previous role as another sometimes rebellious haredi woman in the Israeli TV drama series Shtisel.
Haas has also appeared in a number of high-profile Israeli feature films, including Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival. She won the Best Actress Award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which was held online, for her performance in Ruthy Pribar’s Asia.
Haas’s fellow Emmy nominees are an extremely distinguished group. They are two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett for Mrs. America, Oscar winner and three-time Emmy winner Regina King for Watchmen, Oscar winner Octavia Spencer for Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker and Kerry Washington, who is nominated for Little Fires Everywhere and is well known for her series Scandal.
It is a cliché to say that it is an honor just to be nominated, but for Haas, this has to be true. While critics raved about her performance, most prognosticators are picking King to win for her acclaimed performance in Watchmen, a superhero drama that deals with the very topical subject of racist violence. Watchmen is also heavily favored to win in the Outstanding Limited Series category, which Unorthodox is also nominated for.
But don’t count out Haas and Unorthodox.
Pete Hammond, writing in Deadline, said of Unorthodox: “Still, it has been steadily gaining momentum for Netflix after gaining eight nominations, including the important writing and directing nods that could make this one to watch out for.”
Indiewire declared: “Given the fever around Haas’ turn, she could play spoiler in a category otherwise stacked with veteran favorites.”
Parade magazine called Unorthodox “the dark horse in the bunch” of nominees in the Limited Series category and said: “If the Academy is looking for a fresh face to honor, which it sometimes does, Haas could emerge out of the pack.”
Alan Sepinwall wrote in Rolling Stone that while he expected King to win, “It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see... Haas win for another show that lots of people in the business keep talking about.”
Judy Berman wrote in Time magazine that while Regina King will win for Watchmen, she felt either King or Haas should win, adding: “The argument for giving Shira Haas the prize instead is that, while King is already among the most celebrated actors of our time, Unorthodox‘s young Israeli star – who gave one of the rawest, most embodied performances I’ve ever seen as a teenage wife escaping Hassidic Brooklyn – doesn’t have much name recognition stateside. While the role and the nomination have already boosted her visibility in the US, a win would make her return to Hollywood even more likely.”
The Los Angeles Times felt King would and should win, but it named Haas as the nominee who “Could Surprise.”
So it’s going to be a nail-biter, and Yes subscribers can watch the broadcast live on the Yes Drama channel or a rebroadcast on September 21 at 10:45 p.m.
But win or lose, it is entertaining to watch Haas play the game, and there are likely to be many more awards in her future.